A Long Road

May 26, 2017

Black, oily smoke poured from his nose as he sighed. The view from the end of the pass looked down on the foothills of the Tarthian mountains and seemed to frame the village of Missran perfectly. The steep peaks of the houses, the domed Temple of the Law set into the mountain herself, and the humming of the Machineshrine built on top of their modest Vent. The only reason this town was here.

His pipe hung loosely in his mouth, working around the grimace he carried from the extreme cold of the mountain. The spines of his mecka seemed to twist and grind in the cold lately and the weight bearing on his leg didn’t help. His arm, at least, he could carry in a sling.

He grasped he cart jerked his head a bit to his mecka cart and headed down the winding switchbacks toward Missran, a filmy haze of greasesmoke trailing behind him as if to warn the others out there. The others in the deep pine forests spotted with powerful redwoods that seemed to guard the woods.

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Experience Your Life

May 12, 2017

“No, sir, everything’s been tested thoroughly. Let me explain how it works.”

The Nhanced Awareness clinic was clean and highlighted in comforting greys and blues, with each of the clinicians wearing smart, fitted lab frocks with the Nhance logo emblazoned over their hearts. An example of the device itself, a strange collar looking device with several spines protruding toward its center like a medieval torture device but in medical-grade plastics and platinum alloys, was suspended in a glass case in the center of the waiting room. Around it were hung posters of people enjoying the interface of the device suspended in the air infront of them, a layer of communications and news gently enhancing their everyday life.

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From Each Their Ability

September 2, 2016

A plasma spark between my fingers is the first element of the ritual that brings me relief. Then the slow, heavy inhale, the smell of rich pine tar mixed with burning sugar and cinnamon. Now the exhale, the thick black smoke that hangs rudderless in the air above me, waiting for the wind to take it away. Away with the ghosts of the pain in my joints, in my limbs.

The smoke thinned out into a weaving path over the evergreens studding the side of the mountain I was coming down. Like a dark spirit twisting and twining around the trees, searching for a home or hovel to hide in, it wove its way down toward Ikthardan. It’s a small town with no more than a few buildings other than the tall peaked wooden homes common in the Gertan mountains.

This was the last evening of a two week hike through the mountains to come to the town. They had summoned me, asking that I come as soon as I could. I was the closest of my order, and they needed our help before another new moon came and went.

I followed the river of smoke to the large longhouse that stood in the middle of the town, raised up on great oak risers and adorned with the hammers, mizran, and runes of the Order of Law. I rapped twice with my gloved hand and breathed deep, slowly exhaling. Townsfolk can sometimes be trying on my nerves.

A simple boy opened the door, unadorned by anything other than the light tunic and slacks, emblazoned with the small shield of Ikthardan. “Sir? Welcome to Ikthardan, what is your business with the Master of the House?”

I smiled, relieved. Young men are easier than stuffy majordomos or councilors. “I am Vala, I come as I was called. Speak to the Justicar, he will know of me.” I then reached out to him with my mechan hand, holding the forty-link badge of my order. “The Dranchae have come as we have been asked.”

The boy’s eyes widened and he dashed away, yelling for someone named Rozath. Probably the Justicar, the speaker for the Order of Law. The returning footfalls came with a large, barrel-chested man with a thick, braided beard and tightly coiled hair. He was, indeed, wearing a long tabard emblazoned with the mizran of the Law.

“Welcome, Valaryatha. I am Rozath, of the Claeve of Justicars, Lawbringer to this land and servent of the Silver Legions and enforcer of the Mizran, the Laws of the Righteous. We are in grave need of your help, dhallma.”

A samurai plucks arrows from her quiver and looses them toward an enemy before her, peppering the vicious ogre before dropping from her horse, drawing her sword, and moving in for the kill.

Fighting for his life, the gladiator bashes the first swarming goblin with his shield then throws the shield at the next. His sword cleaves a third goblin as he picks up one of their crude spears and uses it to old the mass back as he figures out his next move.

Plumes of smoke erupt from the guns of the small band of musketeers, picking off the flanks of the advancing force of armored knights. They keep in formation, shooting and falling back, until finally the knights number less than they and their swords leap into their hands for the final struggle.

All of these are fighters. Each and every one of them. They all stem from a single, pure ideal. A fantasy of the warrior who is an expert in all forms of warfare and combat. In Dungeons and Dragons, we call that warrior The Fighter.

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This once appeared on The Limitless, an online magazine, that has (it appears) since gone defunct. So I’m putting it here again so everyone can read it.

This is Us. 


He’s never who you think he would be.

He was young, well youngish. Maybe late twenties. Perhaps early thirties. Not tall, not fat, not thin, not short, he was quite average overall. A bit of a paunch hanging over layered muscles, quiet business clothes poorly kept.

He had grown up apart from most. Good at math, good with words, did well in the Arts, the Humanities, the Sciences. Enjoyed English, studied history. Never had any friends though; when he would try to interact with others, whether peers or adults, he was always too visceral. Too intense. Too loud, too insistent, too focused. Many saw him and distrusted him; they all thought he was like a robot wearing a skin suit.

He went to a local college, didn’t follow his dream. People like him could never be successful dreamers, only forgotten dreamers. Instead he became an accountant, a numbers man, and was good at it. Enjoyed it. He would offer to do anyone’s numbers, to help them and to secure that desperately wanted social interaction. Such desperation lead him to the wrong groups, the wrong people. He fell in with tough “friends”, friends who taught him how to fight, how to argue, how to lead.

Now he worked with these friends. They ran a halfway successful boxing clinic to hide the thuggery of their day to day operations. He did their numbers. Some liked him. Some feared him. All respected him, and that is all he could want. He always arrives in the same way he leaves; black leather messenger bag, loosely resting in the small of his back, containing small laptop, power cable , cell phone, cell phone cable, two black pens, a blue pen, a red pen, a yellow college-ruled legal pad, small bottle of unsorted medications, all hidden under his business jacket. He didn’t need to hide it under his jacket but he did.

He had taken the bus home that day, as he always did. Two buses, one west three blocks, the other north four and a half. From there he had to walk another half-block north, as the bus turned. While this bothered him, it was of no consequence. That day was particularly jarring for him, with them sounds around him haunting him, following him. They hit hit him in waves of cacophony, unsettling him as the ocean throws a swimmer from his wave. When he walked off the bus he reached down to his belt, a small leather case with a metal clasp, and felt the edges of a balisong, a butterfly knife, through the casing. It was one of his small comforts.

The balisong was a gift from his boss. It reminded him of a yoyo he had owned as a child. A way of metering the world, a metronome for his thoughts. There was the click of it rolling off of his fingers, the swish of it falling, and the snap as it returned to his hand. Click, swish, snap. Just the tiniest bit of pain to solidify it for him, to make the object real. The balisong was like that. The click of the hinge opening, the swish of the knife sweeping open, the snap of it coming together just after his fingers glide out of the way. Click, swish, snap.

The knife was how he came to be feared, even respected, among his compatriots. While he was an accountant, whenever other boxing clubs had tried to rough him up, they had found that he was deadly with the small knife. Two men were hospitalized for one of these encounters.

He walked down the road toward his home, buildings looming above him, seeming to judge him. Everything seemed to warp toward him, as if being pulled toward him. A road became a cave, every wall pouring over him like falling glasses full of the darkest ink. Set apart was one electrical box, brazenly displaying itself like a man puffing his chest. Proudly labeled with a sticker, right across the front, the box inquired, “Do we really know what we think we know?” The balisong was in his hand, he knew not how it got there. Only that the click, swish, snap was keeping him level.

He was opening the door to his apartment, left handed, but this was awkward. He was normally right handed but, currently, his right hand was occupied. The knife danced over it, entrancing but, ultimately, ignored. It was his metronome for now, whispering the soft “click, swish, snap.”

His TV was on. He was inside. He was unsure as to how or why this happened. He was cooking dinner. In the background was the knife. Opening. Closing. Click…swish…snap.

Half eaten, his dinner has cooled near him. The knife is fevered now. Clickswishsnap, as if one word, and the man on the TV is leering to him, leaning over. He says, “You can do it. We can help.”

The phone is clicking onto the base, an old phone. Rotary. The knife blazes around his hand like steel turned to light. The sound is indefinable now, almost an emotion rather than a physical thing. He had heard their voice, the phone number from the sticker (was there a phone number?) they can help him (did they say that?). They knew everything (they did say that). He told them he saw it, the reasons behind everything (he’s always known the reasons, why the music hates him, why the building crush him). He told them that he was being followed (they follow him every day). He told them he has the answer (the only answer). They did not listen.

But he knew. He knew now. He could stop the evil inside of him, he just had to remove it. Excise it. Like his numbers. Slowly he lay down, and he cleared his mind. Readying himself.

Click.

Swish.

Snap.

 

Some Worldbuilding

October 3, 2014

Thinking of the second major character for the fantasy setting I’m working on, Smoke, got me thinking about the kind of trope design the setting will be built around. Almost all fantasy settings have ‘classes’, or types of heroes that wander around in those worlds. Usually it’s a combination of professional fighters; thieves, rogues, and other cut-throats; clerics, priests, shamans, or other sorts of healers and holy men; and wizards, sorcerers, mages, and other types of magicians. Occasionally there are specific versions of one of these four groups that are particular to whatever setting it is, or unique hybrids among them that provide flavor for the setting.

In this world, all great persons can be summed up into 3 groups: Warriors, those whose martial prowess, extreme technique, and skill with arms give them power and prestige; Sorcerers, whose sage like knowledge, wisdom, and control of the four elements and five directions grant them mystical abilities through their sacred knowledge; and Alchemists, the rare martial artists who practice an internal form that mixes martial prowess, mystical abilities, and the arcane energies of the Dao to manipulate themselves and their opponents.

Savisha, or my Grey Paladin as I think of her, is a Warrior. She is a master of the Eight Arms of Marisha, the martial art that was created by the founder of her holy order. It uses six weapons, outlined in the last bit I wrote about this, as well as an open-handed style and intricate study of the body’s positions and how they reflect the mind’s wisdom to make practitioners skilled diplomats. Other Warriors include samurai from beyond the White Peaks who mastered a flowing and fast style of fencing with their curved but strong swords or the soldiers of Hwaran Shein who patrol the emerald hills around their kingdom on horseback with heavy chopping swords and axe-like polearms. Most militaries and royal clans are made almost completely of Warriors. Their secrets lie in the mastery of External Martial Arts, the methods of striking out from the body aggressively.

Smoke, her companion through the journey she finds herself in within the story, is an enterprising Alchemist. He is a master of a form of combat that centers around deception and manipulating his body to make it light enough to fly short distances, flexible enough to bend around his opponents, yet strong enough to deliver crushing blows when necessary. His style is centered around the control of the qi in his breath, so as to control his breath itself. To exploit this, he carries a large water pipe, using the sweet smell to disorient those trying to overtake him and controlling the smoke to hide his presence in a fight. Other Alchemists would include the ancient orders of doctors in the Xiaolin states or the horse-callers of the open plains of the Khans. Every great martial arts tradition has a mystical arm composed of Alchemists to master the body and the mind through their martial practice. Their secrets lie in the mastery of Internal Martial Arts, the methods of controlling the body’s flow of energy, or qi, to work mystical feats.

The last group is the Sorcerers, who will not go without their own representation in the story, are the most secretive and rare group of the three. Their practices are truly arcane in nature, drawing on an understanding of all of the sacred forces of the world that govern its nature. They are the sage students of the four elements (Water, Fire, Stone, and Wind) as well as the five directions (North, South, East, West, and Center). Both wizards with no allegiance or alliance who lock themselves away in ancient places to study arcane forces and the holy men in the temples of the Merciful God who speak words of healing and curing are Sorcerers. The truly magical feats of the world are all rooted in the 3 Sciences; Elemental Control, The Methods of the Five Directions, and the Sacred Names. Elemental Control allows Sorcerers to direct and control the fundamental force of their world, from drawing poison right out of the blood by commanding its Water essence to shaping steel into a legendary sword by commanding the Earth within the iron and carbon. The Methods of the Five Directions grant Sorcerers incredible powers over distance when studies properly, allowing them to move at quick speeds, take flight, or even stand timeless in a single place and never aging at the highest levels of mastery. The Sacred Names are an incomplete collection of sutras, or sacred writings, that describe the true nature of things and allow the Sorcerers to manipulate the world using inscriptions in these sacred words directly on objects or by using temporary pre-written spells called Talismans. Their secrets lie within this body of knowledge and their creativity in using the 3 Sciences together in powerful ways. Many Sorcerers find themselves performing strange experiments to expand the knowledge of one of the Sciences, working to help those less powerful than themselves due to pacts with themselves (or occasionally powerful spirits), or serving leaders of the great nations of the many lands in the great continent of Surra and the islandsto the south in the Hwaran Archipelago.

Surra is but one part of the largest continent in this world and the most powerful political entities in their world. Though other nations certainly interact with them, and I’ll be exploring those later.

So, Patronage

September 26, 2014

I’ve set up a Patreon account. I haven’t launched my campaign yet, though I am considering it. I don’t expect it to make me any money, let alone enough money to really support me. But a boy can dream.

Mainly what’s going to come with this is a couple things.

One – if I do get support, I’m going to start updating more frequently. If I’m being paid for it, I’ll write. As it is, it’s very difficult for me to find the energy to write because I don’t strictly have to and no one seems to care outside of some phantom accounts on WordPress and a single friend who I can prattle on endlessly to about my writing ideas. This will give me a concrete reason to create more fiction. And game designs.

Two – I’m going to start interacting with those of you who do support me much more. For one, there’ll be a regular, weekly stream of me playing video games that Patreon subscribers of a certain amount would get to Skype into and influence heavily. Like having the option to decide what characters I make in Neverwinter Nights, what decisions to make in Deux Ex, or what army to play in Starcraft. There will be a separate weekly stream of me drafting in Magic the Gathering Online with subscribers being able to influence what queue I join and what kind of deck I draft.

Three – Game prototyping. Beyond beta-prototypes, which will be a subscriber only kind of thing, I’ll reserve my personal prototypes, such as handmade prototypes, for selling/giving away/prizes for my supporters.

Four – Roundtables. Two monthly roundtable discussions, one for my fiction with a writing circle of subscribers where participants will have the ability to come at me directly about choices in my fiction and what kind of fiction I should be working on next. I’ll also help people parse their own fiction and do structure support and other general writing circle kinds of things. The other monthly roundtable will be discussing game design, working on game prototyping, and working on beta rules. This group will definitely always get betas and prototypes of game designs and have influence over the design process.

I really hope I can find a way to make all of this work. If I get any support at all, it’ll be a wonder but maybe, just maybe, I’ll get that and more.

Thanks for listening. First up, a poll about what I should be streaming. If you’d like to see something else, please add it in the comments. I’ll let you know if I own it or not. I’d ask about the Magic stream too but, well, I can’t draft anymore this month without a patron and the beginning of next month is reserved for the KHANS OF TARKIR pre-release and release events.

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